You might only know Johannesburg for its O.R. Tambo Airport — the largest and busiest on the African continent — but eGoli (Zulu for the “City of Gold”) is more than an air travel transfer hub nowadays. You can also explore time learning about apartheid and gold rush history, sprawling townships, viewing galleries and street art sites, and connecting with local producers at markets.
Best Things to Do in Johannesburg
Here are 6 things you can do in Johannesburg:
1. Eat Shisa Nyama
Braai is the local form of Barbecue in South African and is enjoyed across all of the country’s cultures and classes. You can see in a traditional Zulu shisa nyama restaurant, guests select their meat and wait as an employee grills it to order over an open fire. The popular dishes are beef, lamb, chicken, mutton, and boerewors—an Afrikaans sausage that’s mostly used and made of beef. The best placed to taste authentic shisa nyama (which means “burn meat”) include Joe’s Butchery in Alexandra and the widely popular Busy Corner Imbizo Shisanyama in Midrand.
2. Explore Maboneng
There are so many things to know and explore in Johannesburg. The neighborhood is the center of an urban renewal project, where warehouses are being transformed into luxury apartments and art vendors started popping up on the weekends. There is a weekly Market on Main showcases local artists, brewers, and food stalls in the Arts on Mainspace, and several cafés in the area have become trendy places to see.
3. Talk in a Show
Yes, you can talk in a show as well. Braamfontein’s Joburg Theatre hosts so many things from ballet shows to musicals and comedy festivals including talk shows. For Johannesburg-based performing arts, go to independent POPArt Theatre that hosts regular outdoor events at pop-up venues across the city. Gold Reef City, an opulent, 1,100-seater choice for international theater, organizes concerts and comedy shows. Johannesburg’s most popular music venue is the 3,500-capacity Big Top Arena has already hosted the likes of James Blunt and the Pixies.
4. Watch out Local Art
Art has been an important form of expression throughout South Africa’s history, and many of Johannesburg’s abandoned buildings and streets are frequently painted. Set out for the tour of Newtown, Joburg’s culture precinct that’s home to art museums and galleries as well. Or you may also take in the murals of Soweto, which often focuses on a common theme: Mandela.
You may also head to the Wits Art Museum in Braamfontein, which is home to collections of classical and contemporary South African art. Circa Gallery is yet another impressive art gallery in Rosebank exhibiting contemporary art and installations on a space that earlier was a parking lot.
5. Visit Nelson Mandela Sites
You can also visit places of iconic past President Nelson Mandela. Mandela spent time living in multiple area townships. He fled an arranged marriage and settled in Alexandra in the early 1940s, and later on, after his imprisonment on Robben Island, he shifted to Soweto at the end of apartheid. He also spent his twilight days in the upscale Johannesburg suburb of Houghton. He was also recently immortalized in statue form at the Nelson Mandela Square in a shopping mall in the business district of Sandton City. You may also head to The Mandela House on Vilikazi Street in Soweto.
6. Visit Constitution Hill
Constitution Hill is home to the South African Constitutional Court, but it’s also popular as the “Robben Island of Johannesburg”. It is home to the historic Old Fort prison complex, and housed many political prisoners, including both Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, during apartheid. There are three museums i.e. the Old Fort Museum, the Women’s Gaol Museum, and the Number Four Museum, which is open to the visitor. You can also visit the Constitutional Court, which was established in 1994.